I'll Have Two Extra Crispy Breasts Please, Hold the Arsenic

Don’t you just hate it when they always give you cancer with your order of chicken?

Well,  so do a couple of politicians in the State of Maryland. Fed up with the Feds doing nothing as usual, they introduced two bills that would ban arsenic-based drugs commonly used in the feed of commercial poultry operations.

News of these bills was announced today at a press conference where Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Tom Hucker were joined by State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, as well as Dr. Keeve Nachman, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and prominent consumer, chickspublic health and environmental advocates.

In addition to the arsenic Americans consume at the dinner table, American broiler chickens generate billions of pounds of animal waste each year, causing significant runoff of arsenic into soils and surrounding waterways,” said Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.  “The poultry industry’s continued use of arsenic creates entirely unnecessary and avoidable risks to our health and environment.  The time to protect our families and the environment from the hazards of this chicken sandwhichdangerous chemical is long overdue.” He concluded by adding “It’s hard to imagine who would be on the other side of this issue, and say ‘Yes, I do want arsenic in my chicken and in my water.”

Two years ago, Maryland Attorney General Gansler and more than 30 other state attorneys general, including from Illinois, California and Massachusetts, wrote a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to prohibit the use of arsenic in chicken feed nationally.  FDA is still examining the question, but has not yet made a decision, according to the agency.mother hen

“Many Americans purchase chicken for its nutritional benefits,” said Maryland State Delegate Tom Hucker. “Consumers need to know that the chicken they are buying for their families isn’t poisoning them. In addition, once arsenic gets into our soil and into the Bay, we can’t get it out. It’s time to use commonsense and to stop adding arsenic to poultry feed.”

Groundwater tests on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay’s Coastal Plains found arsenic in some household wells reaching up to 13 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerance limit.
Allowing arsenic to be added to poultry feed here in Maryland when, at the same time, we’re trying to reduce the baby turkeyharmful effects of chicken litter to our great natural resource, the Chesapeake Bay, seems ill-conceived and illogical,” said State Senator Paul G. Pinsky“It’s time to say, ‘No more.’”

“Science shows that using arsenic in chicken feed is dangerous and unnecessary,” said Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera. “With the federal government doing little to regulate arsenic-based drugs, leaders in Maryland have a real opportunity here to protect consumer and environmental welfare by banning their use in poultry production.”

“The science behind FDA’s approval of roxarsone and the corresponding chicken residue tolerances haven’t been chicken-babyrevisited since the 1950s,” said Dr. Keeve Nachman, a researcher with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Director of the Farming for the Future Program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. “It ignores a large number of epidemiological studies conducted since then that demonstrate that low level arsenic exposures are concerning,” he noted. “Any exposure to arsenic increases a person’s risk of developing cancer,” Dr.Nachman said. “It is also linked with a variety of other non-cancer health end points, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits,  and spontaneous abortion.”

“Two of the largest poultry producers in the country have proven that they can continue to chicks_trashmake a profit and produce chickens without feeding them arsenic,” said Drew Koslow, Choptank Riverkeeper for the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy “We need to eliminate the use of known carcinogens wherever possible in order to reduce risk to Eastern Shore residents and its aquatic environment.”

Not only are American families, the earth they live on and the water they drink, being poisoned with arsenic, so are their family pets.  It is common practice to use chicken and chicken by-products in pet food and poultry waste (yes, it’s in their poop) in animal feed. Poultry waste is typically used as fertilizer, as a result the waste contaminates soil, water and crops.

Food & Water Watch also announced today that it is joining forces with over 120 organizations and businesses to killing chickenlaunch the Hold the Arsenic campaign, a grassroots initiative to ignite momentum among citizens and community leaders to support these bills, and encourage Governor Martin O’Malley to sign them into law.

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried@fwwatch.org.

Read More about it:

Food and Water Watch Hold the Arsenic Campaign

Poison Free Poultry: Why Arsenic Doesn’t Belong in Chicken Feed | Food & Water Watch

A Deadly Ingredient in a Chicken Dinner By Douglas Gansler, Friday, June 26, 2009, Washington Post

MD Attorney General to Poultry Industry: Get the Arsenic Out of Chicken

Arsenic and Old Waste

Tell FDA to Ban Arsenic in Animal Feed!

Chicken for Dinner, It’s Enough To Make You Sick



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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.


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